Faith is a great mystery. I don’t mean ‘saving faith’ but the faith that moves mountains or that sees healings and miracles. We know that it is God’s power that heals, but even when Jesus had felt that power leave Him for healing He said to the woman who touched Him, “Daughter, your faith has healed you”. Mark 5:30-34. He also said to two blind men who came for healing, “According to your faith will it be done to you”. Matthew 9:29, a statement that I find a little unnerving. Remembering that in Nazareth Jesus was not able to do many miracles ‘and He was amazed at their lack of faith’, Mark 6:6.
Jesus makes it clear that faith is involved in releasing the power of God into our world, but I feel more in the company of the young boy’s father who, when told that “Everything is possible for him who believes”, replied to Jesus “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief”. Mark 9:24. Clearly there is something that we need to do to release the power of God and it is this somewhat illusive thing called ‘having faith’!
It’s that time of year when those with gardens and vegetable patches begin to collect the fruit of their labours. We notice the difference it makes if the plants have received a good dose of fertilizer, when the first shoots began to appear, as to whether or not they produce good fruit, if. If the fertilizer is applied before the fruit appears, there is a good outcome, and we can enjoy some home grown fruit and veg. It struck me that thanksgiving is a lot like that fertilizer, it feeds my faith and grows it till there is a harvest to reap, but it needs to be applied before the fruit actually appears.
If when the first shoots of our ‘crop’ came through we thought, “Well that’s not what we were expecting, just green leaves on a stem, we wanted red tomatoes”, and so we turned away disappointed and then neglected those plants, there would be no tomatoes at a later date. No! We see the green shoots, feel very encouraged that they haven’t died, and then we feed those shoots and care for them until the fruit appears and we can enjoy it.
It seems to me that it can be a little like this with our praying in faith. We are looking for answers to prayer; someone’s conversion, some money that we need, or healing in some part of our lives, and very little seems to be happening. Sometimes things even seem to get worse, while at other times, some small thing happens (like a green shoot) but because it is far short of what we have been praying for we get disappointed and may be give up thinking, ‘Yet again I didn’t have enough faith to see the breakthrough’.
What if instead of getting discouraged and giving up we said to ourselves “There’s a shoot here”? And then said “Thank you God for this little beginning. Thank you for this small sign that there is some life here”. What if we let our thanksgiving be the fertilizer that feeds our faith and causes it to grow? What if we stop saying “this is just a shoot but there is no fruit here”? What if we made ‘thanksgiving’ our faith fertilizer, and allowed our faith to grow?
We meet a friend or neighbor for whom we have been praying, and we don’t get a chance to ‘lead them to the Lord’, but they do share with us about the child or parent they are worried about. We don’t get that brown envelope through the post, giving us the amount of money that we need, but the car does miraculously pass the MOT one more time! The lump we are praying about doesn’t disappear, but the scan shows that it has shrunk slightly. These are the green shoots. Let us intentionally give thanks, it will feed our faith, and also draw us closer to the one on whom we need to draw, by faith.
In every case of the miraculous in the bible, faith was expressed by simply coming to Jesus, calling out to Him, touching Him or asking Him for what was needed. Turning to Him with thanksgiving in our hearts is like saying “Thank you Lord, that’s wonderful and can I have more?” It’s a way of ‘coming to Him’ in faith. It stands to reason He will respond to us if we do this. Even in the human arena, I know that if someone shows gratitude for something I do or give, I will be more likely to look for those opportunities to give again. If someone shrugs it off, then I will have to push myself to give again.
The good news is that Jesus did heal the boy of the father who said “I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief”, even though the disciples couldn’t. Mark 9:25,26. Jesus responds to our honesty and He is happy that we are on a journey to grow our faith. So let us look for the green shoots and take every opportunity to put on the fertilizer of thanksgiving, so that we can reap a harvest and become the faith filled people for whom the world is waiting.